At the end of October, the Graphic Arts Group paid a visit to former Courtauld curator Dr Stephanie Buck, now Head of the Kupferstich-Kabinett, within the Staatliche Kunstsammlungen Dresden (SKD). We were generously hosted for a few hours within the prints and drawings study room, where plans are already afoot for Rembrandt’s 350th Anniversary in 2019. Kate Edmondson, paper conservator at The Courtauld who is contributing to the Dresden Rembrandt catalogue, was also part of the GAG group. The curatorial team offered us a fascinating glimpse into their overall exhibition theme, arranged around the concept of Rembrandt’s ‘mark’. Their panoramic approach will explore facets such as Rembrandt’s mark-making as a draughtsman, the physical traces of his teaching methods on students’ drawings and the considerable impact that he would make on later artists from Goya to Käthe Kollwitz. This pioneering research promises a rich display next year.
Following a close look at such masterpieces as the tender drawing of Saskia Sitting up in Bed and a series of etched states of the Entombment, we delved further into the Dresden collection. In time-honoured GAG tradition, group members took it in turns to present works for discussion. Our varied interests and specialisms led to a panoply of works on paper being set upon the easels: figure studies by Filippino Lippi, a glowing drapery study by Ghirlandaio, a precious Botticelli metalpoint on blue paper and an extraordinary Goya watercolour executed smudgily on ivory, among others.
As if our hosts had provided insufficient treats on our first afternoon at the Kupferstich-Kabinett, we were welcomed back again the following day for a private tour of their current exhibition, The Realm of Possibilities — Italian 16th Century Drawings. Showcasing recent research that exhibition curators Dr Marion Heisterberg and Dr Gudula Metze have carried out into the SKD’s holding of Italian drawings, the exhibition aims to introduce a general public to the strengths of the collection as well as key issues related to drawings. Various functions of drawings are considered, including drawings as designs for decorative objects, drawings made in the planning phase of paintings, studies aimed at capturing poses, and portraiture. Highlights include a balletic series of figure studies by Baccio Bandinelli, which document one sculpture from multiple angles and a positively ghoulish study for a lamp formed from a skull, attributed to Giulio Romano. We were delighted to witness artistic process in all of its vividness and experimentation, through studying Correggio’s sketch of the Madonna with St. George, which corresponds to a showstopping altarpiece in the neighbouring Gemäldegalerie.
A thoroughly enjoyable trip, and a new discovery for many of us!